Celebrate Labor Day With California Strawberries!

Add California Strawberries to Your Labor Day Event

 

By Laurie Greene, Editor

 

Many people will be out and about with an extra day off on Labor Day, trying to get that last swallow of summer. They’ll crowd beaches, lakes, parks and backyard BBQs. What better way to celebrate the achievements of American workers than to add fresh-picked California strawberries to the menu?

Carolyn O'Donnell
Carolyn O’Donnell, communications director, California Strawberry Commission

 

“Any holiday can be celebrated with strawberries as they are available year-round,” said Carolyn O’Donnell, communications director of the California Strawberry Commission in Watsonville. “Strawberries are one of the most popular fruits around. They are sweet but low in sugar, and they are quite nutritious. People are often surprised to find out that having just eight medium strawberries gives you more vitamin C than eating an orange,” she said.

 

“Grown year-round, right now strawberries are coming mostly from the Salinas-Watsonville area on the Central Coast and also in the Santa Maria area,” noted O’Donnell. “As we get more into the fall there will be less coming from the northern sections and more from the Ventura County area to the south. Eventually strawberries will come out of Orange County and Northern San Diego County. The crop will roll back up the coast again with the New Year. By next April or May, strawberries will be coming mostly from the Watsonville area again,” O’Donnell explained.

generational_small strawberries

 

O’Donnell said that strawberry growers are very dedicated to growing the best possible product they can for their customers. “Their strawberries are actually often a crop of opportunity. A number of our farmers started as field workers and were able to work their way up to owning a farm because you can produce a lot of fruit and make a good living on a small amount of land.”

 

O’Donnell said supplies should be plentiful in the grocery store. “We probably have more fruit this time of year than usual probably because rain this past winter delayed harvest, which was good news. Now we’re just working our way along. Folks in the Watsonville areas are also beginning to start preparing their other pieces of fallow ground so that they can plant around Thanksgiving and produce next year’s crop,” she said.

 

Photos: Courtesy of California Strawberry Commission

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Ag Day 2015: A beautiful day to be a farmer

California’s agricultural community gathered yesterday on the west steps of the State Capitol to show, see and share the bounty of our state’s farmers and ranchers. It was a perfect day for such a celebration (although to be perfectly honest, the farmers would have preferred rain). In keeping with the United Nations’ declaration of 2015 as the International Year of Soils, the theme for Ag Day this year was “Breaking New Ground.”

Special thanks to the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s partners in organizing Ag Day, the California Women for Agriculture and the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom.  Thanks also go to our emcee, Kitty O’Neal of KFBK Newsradio, as well as event sponsors the California Egg Farmers, the California Alpaca Breeders Association, the California Farm Bureau Federation, California Grown, the California State Board of Equalization, the California Strawberry Commission, the Farmer Veteran Coalition, Got Milk?, John Deere, the Kubota Tractor Company-California, and the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

 

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Commentary: American Dream flourishes in state’s strawberry fields

Source: Lorena Chavez; Ag Alert

For thousands of immigrants to California, the path to the American Dream literally winds its way through the state’s strawberry fields. Perhaps more than any other crop, strawberries are defined by decades of immigrants from Europe, Asia and Mexico.

A report issued earlier this month by the California Strawberry Commission, titled “Growing the American Dream: California Strawberry Farming’s Rich History of Immigrants & Opportunity,” illustrates how many new Americans find that strawberries are a viable ladder to success.

According to the report—which can be found on the Strawberry Commission website at www.californiastrawberries.com—a diverse community of 400 family farmers dominates the state’s strawberry production, which accounts for nearly 90 percent of all the strawberries grown in the United States.

Sixty-five percent of these farmers are Latinos, a quarter of whom worked their way up from field workers to supervisors and eventually owners of their own farms. Another 20 percent are Asian Americans, primarily Japanese and, most recently, Laotians. The remaining 15 percent are comprised of European Americans, with some tracing their ancestry to Gold Rush pioneers.

The story of my father, Luis Chavez, illustrates this immigrant experience. He came to the United States from a small, rural town in Jalisco, Mexico. Born in 1934, he was raised in a home with no electricity or running water. He hasn’t attended a single day of school in his entire life. His family grew corn and beans to survive.

With no money in his pockets, he arrived in California in search of a better life in 1955, as part of the Bracero program. Like generations of immigrants, my father realized that the key to success was hard work. He first worked in a dairy, covering double shifts for 16 years until the family could scrape up enough money to lease an acre to plant strawberries.

While still working their regular jobs, my parents would get up at 4 a.m. every day to tend their plot, slowly building their business. Gradually, they expanded to become L&G Farms. My siblings and I now work side by side with my father to farm 300 acres in Santa Maria, where we employ several hundred people.

This story is not uncommon. But why are so many immigrants drawn to strawberry farming?

Due to their high yield, year-round harvesting and strong consumer demand, strawberries are able to sustain a family on a relatively small parcel of land. The barriers to entry are also favorable to immigrant farmers, because they can afford to lease and not buy their farmland.

With our deep and longstanding immigrant tradition, California strawberry farmers have been highly vocal in advocating for immigration reform. Certainly, we are concerned about the need for a pool of workers to harvest our crops. But more importantly, we share a desire to make sure that future generations of immigrants have the opportunity for the upward mobility that strawberries have provided for our family.

Along with other California strawberry farmers, and even Silicon Valley executives, I have made several trips to Capitol Hill to tell Congress about the critical need for meaningful immigration reform.

While recent election results have stalled efforts, immigration reform should not be postponed indefinitely. And it definitely should not be a partisan matter.

On one of our trips to Capitol Hill, one of my colleagues, a first-generation Mexican-American farmer from Salinas, eagerly sought out a statue of President Ronald Reagan, his hero, who granted amnesty to millions of immigrants. This simple act paved the way for my colleague to become an American citizen, gradually working his way to become a strawberry farmer employing nearly 100 workers. Another American Dream realized.

The commission’s report provides a strong reminder about the sacrifice, pride and contributions made by this nation’s immigrants throughout our history.

It also underscores the fact that immigration reform is as American as, well, strawberries.

California Strawberry Commission Economic Report: Industry Has Postive Local and State Impact

TODAY, the California Strawberry Commission released a first-ever statewide economic report detailing the $3.4 billion economic contributions of strawberry farming to the state. The report titled, Sustaining California Communities: Economic Contributions of Strawberry Farming (February 2014) showcases the positive impact strawberries have on local communities.

With the best climate in the world for sustainably growing strawberries, California continues to lead the United States and the world in strawberry production. California strawberry farmers are responsible for growing nearly 90 percent of U.S. strawberries. If California were a country, it would be the world’s largest producer of strawberries. California’s 400 family-owned strawberry farms generate an estimated 70,000 farm jobs, while growing strawberries on less than 40,000 acres (less than one percent of all California farmland).

“Not only does California have the best climate on earth to grow strawberries, it also has the most innovative and hardworking strawberry farmers in the world,” said Rick Tomlinson, President of the California Strawberry Commission.  “These 400 small family farms are the foundation for on-farm jobs, as well as packaging, shipping, processing, marketing, nutrition, science, and export jobs that create opportunity in our Central Coast communities and healthy food for consumers.”

Strawberry farming has a multiplier effect, creating jobs and generating revenue beyond the farm. For every farm dollar made, 97 cents is invested back into the community. Strawberry farming accounts for an estimated $108 million in annual tax revenue. This in turn supports local, state and regional government services. Taxes support teachers, police and firefighters, and through a dedicated program, college scholarships support higher education opportunities for children of strawberry farm workers.

just_add_ca_strawberries_rolling_banner-616_250
Source: California Strawberry Commission

“California strawberry farming is a tremendous asset to the state and nation,” said economist Jim Schaub, Ph.D. “The dollars that come into strawberry farms go back out as wages, land costs, payments for farm inputs and services, regulatory costs, and property and business taxes.”

From inception to harvest, the entire lifecycle of a strawberry begins and ends in California. In Northern California, roughly a billion plants are nurtured in open fields from October to February. These hardy, healthy nursery plants are then shipped to the Central Coast: the world’s premier region for growing strawberries. Every step of the way, strawberries provide hundreds of communities with jobs, income and tax revenue necessary to sustaining local economies.

The California Strawberry Commission is a state government agency located in Northern California that represents an industry of 600 growers, shippers and processors of California strawberries. With a focus on food safety education, Commission strategies also include production and nutrition research, trade relations, public policy and marketing communications.

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March is National Nutrition Month, California Agriculture Rules!

National Nutrition Month (NNM) this year focuses on following the Dietary Guidelines recommendations by combining taste and nutrition to create healthy meals. Consumer research confirms that taste tops nutrition as the main reason why one food is purchased over another. While social, emotional and health factors also play a role, the foods people enjoy are likely the ones they eat most.

NNM is a nutrition education and information campaign created annually in March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. NNM also promotes the Academy and its members to the public and the media as the most valuable and credible source of timely, scientifically based food and nutrition information.

University of California Cooperative Extension – Imperial County is ready for NNM’s theme this year, “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.” Eating right can be challenging as healthy foods are often misunderstood to be bland, flavorless, boring, and not worth the time, but this isn’t always true! Eating right can be delicious, flavorful, quick, and easy, and enjoyable.

California Walnuts wants to help consumers defend health all year round, and especially during National Nutrition Month. Their message is including whole foods like walnuts as part of a healthy diet can provide valuable nutrition that defend against diseases. The Natural Defender’s Toolkit has a variety of components that can be used to track personal health and learn more about nutrition.

The BMI Chart allows people to find their BMI value based on height and weight. The Cholesterol Tracker allows people to track cholesterol levels after every doctor’s visit, along with exercise and diet goals. The Medicine Tracker aids folks in keeping track of medications. And, finally, the Personal Prevention Record helps defend people’s health against many preventable diseases. Use the forms in the Natural Defenders Toolkit, complete with nutrition tips from experts, to help people get started on a path towards wellness today.

The California Cling Peach Board suggests as we continue on through the month, we want to make sure we maintain a strong emphasis on the importance of nutrition.

California Strawberry Commission urges, “Just Add Strawberries for National Nutrition Month.”

Melissa Tamargo, on the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Blog, says to choose fresh foods that are naturally low in sodium such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs and milk. 

UC California Agricultural Tourism Directory instructs us to read the Nutrition Facts label to choose low-sodium foods and look for terms like “no added salt.”

The Hass Avocado Board tells us to celebrate National Nutrition Month with an avocado-focused menu. Avocados make a great dip for chips and veggies or a flavorful sandwich spread. For creative ideas on how to add Fresh Hass Avocados to menu, stop by AvocadoCentral.com/avocado-foodservice.

Why not celebrate National Nutrition Month by taste-testing different varieties of the same crop, as suggested by the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom. Try some pears, for instance. After all, according to the CDFA, California provides us with more than 400 choices!

 

 

 

         Author: Melissa Tamargo

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Strawberry Meeting Focused on Fumigants, Pest Control

Fumigation Was Big Topic at Santa Maria Strawberry Meeting

 

New laws and regulations on fumigation for Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo County strawberry growers were in place for the first time this season, and growers did a good job for the most part. This and other topics were discussed at the Wednesday’s annual Strawberry Production and Pest Management Meeting in Santa Maria.

According to Lottie Martin, Ag Biologist, Santa Barbara County Ag Commissioners office, for the most part, grower chose the right tarps for the right situation. “Growers must be careful to use a 60 percent tarp when capping a fumigation with the

Surendra Dara, crop advisor, UC Cooperative Extension, San Luis Obispo
Surendra Dara, crop advisor, UC Cooperative Extension, San Luis Obispo

1,3 D,” said Martin. “Growers should plan well in advance to make sure the tarp that is needed, is available.”

Martin said mandated buffer zones were noted and documented, however operators need to do a better job with required signage.

Surendra Dara, a Strawberry and Vegetable Crops Advisor, UC Cooperative Extension, San Luis Obispo, spoke about re-evaluating lygus bug IPM tools in strawberries with a focus on field vacs, monitory and economic thresholds. He spoke of an experiment with softer chemistry such as well as using B. bassiana, a soil fungus that acts as a parasite to lygus. “A combination of B. bassiana and azadirachtin.

Hillary Thomas, research manager, California Strawberry Commission
Hillary Thomas, research manager, California Strawberry Commission

Hillary Thomas, Research Manager with California Strawberry Commission in Watsonville also spoke about lygus. Her focus was third year bug vac research for lygus control.

Kirk Larson, pomologist and strawberry production specialist with the UC South Coast Research and Education Center, Irvine
Kirk Larson, pomologist and strawberry production specialist with the UC South Coast Research and Education Center, Irvine
Kirk Larson, Pomologist and Strawberry Production Specialist with the UC South coast Research and Education Center, Irvine spoke about advanced selections and non-chilling plug plants.

Mark Bolda, Strawberry and Caneberry Farm Advisor and County Director with UC Cooperative Extension, Santa Cruz County spoke about strawberry transplanting and the critical importance of chilling hours necessary for strawberry production.

Steve Fennimore, Cooperative Extension Specialist, UC Davis updated attendees on the use of steam to kill soil pathogens, in place of fumigants. He said work is focused on reducing the cost and outlined possible use of a prototype machine around certain higher risk areas near buffer zones on production fields.

Karen Klonsky UC Cooperative Extension specialist
Karen Klonsky UC Cooperative Extension specialist

Karen Klonsky, Cooperative Extension Specialist, UC Davis spokes about the economic considerations of alternatives to fumigation and producing a second year crop.

Also speaking was Thomas Flewell, Flewell Consulting, Watsonville-Salinas. His topic focused on evaluating pest management strategies with numbers. What do the numbers mean and how do we really know what we’re doing.

A more detailed report can be found in future issue of Vegetables West Magazine. Free subscription at VegetablesWest.com.

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